The island of Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands, located in western Greece, with an area of 300 square miles and an indigenous population of 45,000 permanent residents.
Kefalonia’s economy is primarily based upon a combination of local agricultural production – mainly olive oil – fishery and tourism, although the island’s notoriety as a tourist destination did not occur until the mid-1990s.
The island is most noted for its beautiful rural landscape, largely green and mountainous, with beautiful beaches. Kefalonia is gaining a reputation for being a warm and welcome place for travelers seeking a relaxed destination to spend their holidays.
The island is a perfect destination for sightseeing – with many museums and historical sites – for beachcombing – with exquisite beaches available around the island – and for chillaxing, as well.
Explore Old Skala and discover the remains of the church, olive press and many old houses, buildings and agricultural terracing that were part of the original village, tragically destroyed in the 1953 earthquake when all the local inhabitants relocated to what is now the beachside resort of Skala.
The village-style resort of Skala is a sun seeker's paradise with lovely beaches and a warm crystal blue sparkling sea. The charming local shops, a wide array of restaurants and bars make Skala an approachable, casual place to relax and enjoy the local hospitality.
Stay up late and enjoy the local nightlife or head back to Villa Eros to enjoy a private drink on the patio by the pool. For the adventuresome, the island boasts spectacular beach-lined coastlines, picturesque villages and evergreen forests to be explored. With boat trips available from Skala beach or nearby port of Poros, both Zakinthos and Ithaca are within easy reach, as well.
On the main street in what is now Skala Town, and the surrounding small side-streets leading down to the beach, you will find a wide and varied choice of shops, restaurants, bakeries, sweet shops and local food markets, including a butcher shop, all of which are open until late every day of the week, during the season. Some of the clothing/souvenir shops close during the afternoon periods but others remain open from mid-morning through until late in the evening.
Skala is known for its lovely beaches and several of the local hotels and beach bars rent sun-loungers and umbrellas for daily hire, also providing snack lunch and beverages on the beach, should you desire. Also along the seafront, you will find several upscale restaurants, traditional tavernas and bars, all sporting a spectacular sea view, overlooking the Ionian, the
VILLA EROS AND OLD SKALA
Villa Eros is in Old Skala, up on the hillside above the resort village of Skala and Skala Beach. Pitched in a grove of olive and pine trees, the remains of the village of Old Skala provide a glimpse into how local life was on this Greek island before tragedy and modernization altered the island’s landscape from a rural, remote Ionian island to what it is today.
In exploring Old Skala, you will discover the remains of the original church, the large mechanical olive press and the vestiges of many old houses, buildings and agricultural terracing that were part of the original village, but tragically destroyed in the 1953 earthquake when all the remaining local inhabitants evacuated relocated to what is now the beachside resort of Skala. The local shepherd, who must have been a young boy at the time of the quake, can often be seen standing near the old church looking after his herd and pondering out to sea. Characteristic of all Kefalonia, he always has a smile and a wave for passers-by.
Villa Eros is located on the east side of Old Skala, at the end of the concrete road, just adjacent to some of the remains of agricultural terracing that grew and provided food crops for the locals and Kefalonians from other villages alike. There are several lovely walks just beyond Villa Eros that show just how populated and productive the old village must have been.
In August, every year, the remaining quake survivors and their descendants commemorate the memory of the lost villagers with a festival up in Old Skala with an open pit barbeque and ceremony overseen by the local Greek Orthodox Church. The celebration goes on well into the night and has been known to cause the odd “traffic jam” with all the local vehicles parking and vying to get as close to the action as possible!
SKALA BEACH RESORT
Skala is known for its lovely beaches and several of the local hotels and beach bars rent sun-loungers and umbrellas for daily hire, also offering snack lunch and beverages on the beach, served directly to you on the beach. Some of the Skala beach areas can be quite pebbly upon entry to the sea. You can find “swim-shoes” to purchase at several of the local shops which make it easier to get in and out of the sea.
Along the seafront, you will find several upscale restaurants, traditional tavernas and bars, all sporting a spectacular sea view, overlooking the Ionian, the Peloponnese Peninsula and Zakynthos (Zante). If you are interested in a day-trip to Zante, Ithaca or Fiscardo, you will find Captain Vangelis’ Cruises booking and information area located next to The Anassa Hotel. Water sports, jet ski, and small boat and pedalo hire are available from Dolphin Ski Club which is located on the beachfront, as well.
On the main “high” street, and the surrounding small side-streets, leading down to the beach, you will find a wide and varied choice of shops, restaurants, bakeries and local food markets, all of which are open until late, every day of the week, during the season. There is also a butcher shop located just off the high street, near to Captain’s Bar and Veranda. Some of the clothing/souvenir shops close during the afternoon periods but others remain open from mid-morning through until late in the evening. There are also small local markets right on the beach road out toward the direction of Poros and on the road leading to the Roman Villa ruins. In summer 2016, the national Greek supermarket chain Alpha Beta (sounds like Alfa Veetah) also opened a branch on the Skala beach road that has a variety of produce, beverages and a full deli-counter.
In 2015, the village governors were inspired by other European towns to cobble the main “high street” shopping area and turn it into a pedestrianized zone between the hours of 12 noon-midnight daily during the summer season. While the area is marked clearly by signs at the entry points to the main shopping street, they are all in Greek but there is (occasionally) traffic and parking enforcement so it’s best to follow the rules. During the restricted hours, cars are not allowed to be driven or parked on the main road. There are other areas, immediately adjacent to the Skala high street where you can park your car without restriction, and there are several alternative driving routes down to the beach road that provides access during the high street’s restricted times.
SKALA'S HISTORICAL SITES
For a bit of culture, spend some time at Skala’s excavated Roman Villa that can be reached on the far end of the beach road, near Akri bar. It has been dated to the 3rdCentury BC and contains artifacts and artwork from the period that are remarkably intact.
On the road out of Skala, in the direction of Poros, next to one of the area’s Greek Orthodox churches, lies the recent excavation and discovery of the remains of a Temple of Apollo, which dates to 600BC. This was amazingly discovered by a digger preparing for the foundations for a new house that was scheduled to be built on this beachfront area. The crew discovered the temple ruins and all building works ground to a halt! The location has been converted into an outdoor museum, showcasing the finds, with a viewing area to get an up-close view of this surprising discovery.
OTHER VILLAGES TO VISIT AROUND THE ISLAND
KEFALONIA'S CAPITAL, ARGOSTOLI
Kefacapital capital, Argostoli, is in the northwest section of the island, not far from the island’s Kefallinia airport [EFL]. Since the mid-1700s, Argostoli has been the island’s centre for business, trade and a year-round hub of social activity. Argostoli is also a successful commercial and private port town with cruise ships, fishing boats and private yachts all sharing the same leeway.
Originally built in a Venetian style, with influences from nearby Italy, Argostoli was badly damaged in the earthquake of 1953 with most of the historic structures destroyed, leaving few of the original buildings following the devastation. Since then, the capitol has been rebuilt and, where possible, the lovely original Venetian buildings have been restored, now juxtaposed against newly built buildings designed in a more modern style.
Along the harbour, there are shops, cafes and restaurants that buzz with locals going about their daily business and social activities. On any given morning, you can find the local fisherman selling their fresh fish direct from their boats and or trailer “store-front” shops positioned on the pavement, where the fish is displayed on ice and prices negotiated on the spot. It is fun and interesting to watch the local restaurateurs and Greek mamas all negotiating the best prices for the just-caught fresh fish and seafood on offer. There are also some fantastic local produce markets on the seafront promenade, offering locally grown fruit and veg, as well as locally produced wine and olive oil. Scattered in amongst it all are several cafés and tavernas where the local “elders” pass the time arguing about politics and playing backgammon (known as “Tavli”), all the while nursing a traditional Greek coffee or iced coffee frappe.
ARGOSTOLI'S MUSEUMS AND PUBLIC GARDENS
The Phocas-Cosmetatos Museum is in Argostoli’s main square and holds a private collection of lithographs featuring the Ionian Islands, indigenous currencies, and other artifacts. For more information go to: http://www.focas-cosmetatos.gr/main_en.html.
The Kefalonia History Museum is located at Davgata, and is home to an interesting collection of natural history artifacts. For more information, call (+30) 26710 84400.
The Corgialeios Museum and Library is specializing in artifacts related to the history of Kefalonia, prior to the 1953 earthquake, and the library is among the largest in Greece. For more information, call (+30) 26710 28300.
The Botanical Gardens are located just near the entry to Argostoli and host more than 2 acres of native Kefalonian plants, including some very rare species, found only in the Ionian islands. For more information go to: www.focas-cosmetatos.gr.
The large resort town is located north of the airport, and hugs the coastline on the approach to Argostoli. The area is packed with tourist attractions, shops, tavernas, and bars. From several vantages, there are lovely views of the small island outcrops nearby.
On the northern edge of Kefalonia, Lixouri is by far one of the largest towns on the island, second only to Argostoli in size and infrastructure. Locals are proud of locally born poet Andreas Laskaratos for whom the town commemorated a statue in his honour that is positioned in the harbour. During summer, the library, museum, and gardens host many cultural events that are popular with locals and tourists alike. Near the town, along the coastal route, you will be able to see the large lighthouse on neighboring Vardiani island built by a British local resident. Skala’s tourist office can provide you with the list of events if you are interested in what is scheduled for during your stay in Kefalonia.
The lovely, charming fishing village of Fiscardo, which is located at the northern edge of the island, is unique on Kefalonia because it is one of the few places that escaped the 1953 earthquake and most of the charming original Venetian buildings remain intact, giving you an authentic look at what the island must have looked like prior to the quake.
The approach to Fiscardo is majestic, with beautiful cypress-lined hills, and small villas tucked into the edges as you descend into the harbour. The village itself is quite cosmopolitan, with an array of luxury yachts parked up along the quayside. There are also some historical sights to see in the area, including the 19th century church with lovely appointments and dramatic embellishments and decoration, a display of excavations of Mycenaean pottery and a Roman cemetery.
Fiscardo is also home to the famous blue-canopied “Tassia’s Taverna” which is the restaurant of Greek TV Chef Tassia Dendrinou. The area attracts a sophisticated clientele and many celebrities from Tom Hanks, Georgio Armani, and Jon Bon Jovi have all dined at Tassia’s over the years. The food is delicious, with many dishes uniquely Tassia’s recipes, and the outdoor dining area takes on a romantic air when the large fairy lights are lit and twinkle overhead in the evening.
On the road from Fiscardo, on route back to Argostoli, north of Myrtos Beach, is the picturesque village of Assos with is located within a small peninsula, down a twisty (slightly narrow) road, which leads to a natural harbour that is a favourite with boating enthusiasts.
The village itself is beautiful and houses some of the most charming tavernas and cafes on the island, along with a tiny beach. There are some remaining examples of Venetian architecture, along with a village square that has a memorial commemorating the generous French financial assistance that Assos received to help the locals rebuild the village after it was seriously damaged during the Italian and German occupation of the area during World War II.
The port town of Sami is on the northeast coast of Kefalonia, 20 km from the capital Argostoli. The town and portside and waterfront are full of shops, cafes, and restaurants that offer wonderful views across to the island of Ithaca and of the Ionian Sea. It is also the backdrop for the filming of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Sami was “rebuilt” with props to make it look like 1940s Argostoli. While the props are no longer in place, many people still want to visit what was once a “film set” on this small Greek Island.
At over 1620 meters above sea level, Mount Einos is the third highest mountain in all of Greece. The situation provides spectacular views, on a clear day, however, be forewarned that because the mountain is a renowned microclimate, there are times when the entire island can be basking in brilliant sunshine and Einos is bathed in rain and fog. In fact, Einos can be found to be covered with ice and snow in the wintertime!
The Greek government has made the area a national park area and Einos is designated as an environmentally protected zone. The location is home to some of the few remaining living Kefalonian Fir trees and all efforts are being made to protect the last of this fir forest from extinction. The only problem is that the local free-range goat population cannot read the warning signs not to eat the trees but visitors can take care of where to walk and drive to reduce any risk to these rare trees.